Discipline of Crop and Horticultural Sciences, School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209 Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Electronic address: [Email]
Water scarcity, nutrient-depleted soils and pollution continue to be a major challenge worldwide and these are likely to worsen with increasing global populations particularly, in urban areas. As a result, environmental and public health problems may arise from the insufficient provision of sanitation and wastewater disposal facilities. Because of this, a paradigm shifts with regard to the sustainable management of waste disposal in a manner that could protect the environment at the same time benefits society by allowing nutrient recovery and reuse for food production is required. Hence, the use of urban wastewater for agricultural irrigation has more potential, especially when incorporating the reuse of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, which are essential for crop production. Among the current treatment technologies applied in urban wastewater reuse for agriculture, hydroponic system is identified as one of the alternative technology that can be integrated with wastewater treatment. The integration of hydroponic system with municipal wastewater treatment has the advantage of reducing costs in terms of pollutants removal while reducing maintenance and energy costs required for conventional wastewater treatment. The efficiency of a hydroponic system with regard to municipal wastewater reuse is mainly linked to its capacity to allow continuous use of wastewater through the production of agricultural crops and the removal of pollutants/nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), resulting to increased food security and environmental protection. Moreover, the suitability of hydroponic system for wastewater treatment is derived from its capacity to minimize associated health risks to farmers, harvested crop and consumers, that may arise through contact with wastewater.